Catholic-run business asks Obama to respect its faith

Denver, Colo., Aug 15, 2012 / 05:18 am (CNA).- A spokesman for a Catholic family-owned business in Colorado is asking President Obama to respect his family’s faith after the president reaffirmed his support for the controversial contraception mandate during a recent campaign swing through the state.

“Instead of rewarding political special interests and punishing family businesses, the president should instead be true to the oath he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution and religious freedom,” Andy Newland, Vice President of Hercules Industries, told CNA Aug. 13.

“At Hercules we offer generous compensation and benefits to all our employees, including for women's health, pregnancy and wellness. We are only asking that the government not force our family to violate its faith in order to earn a living and create jobs.”

Hercules Industries manufactures heating, ventilation and air conditioning units and has locations in several U.S. states. Its owners, William Newland, Paul Newland, James Newland, and Christine Ketterhagen, all identify as practicing Catholics.

On July 27 a federal judge in Denver granted the Newlands and their business a legal injunction against a Department of Health and Human Services mandate they say forces them to violate their Catholic beliefs.

The HHS mandate requires most employers to provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some early abortion-causing drugs. The mandate’s narrow religious exemption would not apply to many Catholic charities, health care systems, and universities. It lacks any protections for secular businesses run by Catholics and others who object to providing the coverage.

Employers who refuse to provide the coverage face possible fines of $100 dollars per employee per day. Hercules Industries employs 300 people.

The Obama administration has said it will work to provide an accommodation for religious institutions. However, it has also advocated against broad exemptions.

President Obama reaffirmed his support for the mandate in a campaign rally on Denver’s Auraria Campus last week.

He criticized his opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, for favoring legislation the president said would “allow any employer to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

“It would be up to the employer to decide. Your boss, telling you what’s best for your health, your safety,” the president said Aug. 8.

Andy Newland questioned why the law’s many other exemptions would not apply to the HHS mandate.

“The federal government cannot pick and choose what faith is and who can practice faith, and then target people of faith for punishment while exempting nearly 200 million other people from this mandate for purely political reasons,” Newland said.

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